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Russia Sentences Ex-reporter for 22 Years in Crackdown

Russia Sentences Ex-Reporter: A prominent former military-affairs journalist was sentenced to 22 years in prison by a Moscow court on Monday for treason for allegedly providing state secrets to NATO states.

According to Ivan Safronov’s lawyer, Yevgeny Smirnov, the 32-year-old journalist’s “exceptional” sentence is the longest ever handed down for treason. Safronov covered the defense business and space sector. A lawyer stated they would appeal the sentence.

Former defense attorney Ivan Pavlov still advises Safronov’s legal team on the case. Investigators have accused Safronov of providing secret information to Czech intelligence, which Prague subsequently provided to the United States.

Official pressure resulted in Smirnov’s and Pavlov’s departure from Russia, and they both now make their homes abroad. Safronov’s third attorney is now being held in custody.

On the same day of the conviction, Russian authorities withdrew Novaya Gazeta’s license, making it one of the last independent newspapers in the country.

Since President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February, he has ramped up his efforts to silence any residual voices of protest by locking up opponents or forcing them into exile. A rule that makes it a crime to distribute material that discredits the Russian army could lead to a crackdown on war critics as well.

Safronov was an advisor to the director of Russia’s federal space agency when he was arrested in July of 2020; he reportedly committed the offenses while working for the Kommersant newspaper.

In his closing statement, he informed the court that he is innocent of espionage for the Czech Republic and Germany, that he never revealed any state secrets, and that he published what he had learned.

Russia Sentences Ex-Reporter
Russia Sentences Ex-Reporter

According to attorneys, the former reporter has been held in pre-trial detention for over two years without being allowed to communicate with his family.

Smirnov claims the trial against him is an attempt to silence the press. Before the verdict, the European Union urged Russia to drop all charges against Safronov and release him.

After his father, also a journalist, passed away in 2007, Safronov made the decision to follow in his footsteps. Safronov’s father was working on an essay about the illegal export of Russian aircraft and anti-aircraft systems to Syria and Iran via Belarus when he tragically fell from a third-floor apartment window and was declared to have died of an accident.

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